Airplane: “Don’t Call Me Shirley!” Edition Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 2005 (1980 Release) Rated: PG Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays Audio: English DD 5.1/ 2.0; French DD mono Subtitles: English; Spanish Time: 87 minutes Disc Format: DVD-9 Case Style: Keep case/slip sleeve “I’d like one way ticket to Chicago. No baggage.” – Ted Striker If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen "Airplane" several times, perhaps even into the hundreds of viewings. You can recite every line, you know where all the gags are going to hit, and you can mimic Leslie Nielsen’s entrances. You have a tendency to compare other pictures to "Airplane" because hardly anything sticks with you the way it does. Therefore, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on a synopsis of the story, but I will give you a little bit of history. "Airplane" is Jerry and David Zucker, and Jim Abram’s (who I’ll refer to as ZAZ from now on) first directorial effort, and it is based on the 1957 picture "Zero Hour". "Zero Hour" depicts a plane trip in serious trouble, and ZAZ accidentally found the picture when they were compiling commercial bits for their Kentucky Fried Theater. Once they spent some time watching "Zero Hour", ZAZ determined it was ripe for parody, so they (self-admittedly) ripped it off to make "Airplane". Some of "Zero Hour"’s scenes are completely lifted and put into "Airplane" with tremendous comedic results. Everything in "Airplane" is played straight: the jokes, the physical comedy and all of the dialogue. But to give the uninitiated a quick synopsis, "Airplane" follows the story of a commercial airline voyage that loses its crew to a bad meal, and the redemption of a former war pilot who is tapped to save the lives of everyone aboard. Before I go on to the meat of the review, Paramount has put four previews on the front of the movie that you cannot skip past by using the menu button on your remote. Instead, you have to hit the chapter advance and move through them. While not a huge deal, it is annoying. The menus are animated to look like a safety card from airlines and it takes some scenes from the movie and it animates them in that style. The feature is selected as “In Flight Movie”. The insert in the package also resembles the safety card, and it too has several jokes based on the movie. This insert also has an offer to buy an inflatable “Otto” the Auto Pilot blow up doll. This is just the beginning of the fun of this release. Video Unfortunately, Paramount has not taken the time to do a new hi-def transfer of the film. This release suffers from heavy grain and digitizing in many scenes, and on my 92” screen it really stuck out. Viewers with smaller displays may not notice it as much. Colors are mediocre at best, but they appear washed out. Flesh tones are somewhat washed out giving everyone a pale appearance. The lighting of the original shoot may contribute to some inconsistencies with the colors as well. The film was shot quickly on a small budget in 1980, so I don’t think there was much concern with lighting subtleties. Whites are accurate, and blacks are deep and show sufficient shadow detail. The picture is very soft and detail, especially in the background, is fair, but not as sharp as seen in better transfers. The Jive subtitles and the signage on the plane (such as the fasten seatbelt sign) tend to smear. The transfer itself shows some dirt and flecks, and some scenes are worse than others. Edge enhancement is minimal. This appears to be the same transfer from the original DVD version. Video rating: 2 / 5 Audio The Dolby Digital 5.1 is wasted in this release. Sound is in the front and center channels throughout the entire movie and the LFE is rarely utilized. I didn’t notice any information coming out of the surrounds. It may have been interesting to move the continuous hum of the plane to the surrounds to enhance the “you are there” effect. Regardless, the voices are clear and accurate, but ADR is apparent at times. Elmer Bernstein’s score has a natural feel to it and it’s serious tone only helps to reinforce the “serious” nature of the comedy. One curious thing I noticed was when the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” is playing in the disco scene: it sounds as if it’s been sped up. The commentary clears this up by telling us it was one of the conditions of getting clearance to use this track. It sounds a little faster than it was on the previous DVD release, and I don't have the laserdisc or VHS to compare it with the current release. Audio rating: 2 / 5 Bonus Material “Long Haul Version”: I was hoping to get a version of this movie that had all the deleted scenes reinstated. This edition of "Airplane" gives you the “Long Haul Version”: while the movie proceeds, you get deleted scenes and interviews with ZAZ and various cast members. These participants do video commentaries to the scenes and explain any background. For the deleted scenes, ZAZ explains why they were cut, and then they are shown. So, while not a seamless branching version of the film, you get the documentary and deleted scenes shoehorned back into the feature itself. The DVD producers dug pretty deep to get content for this version, even the real “Boy Trapped In Refrigerator Eats Own Foot” is interviewed. If you are as familiar with the movie as I am, this is a new way to enjoy the feature itself, and the commentaries pop up every couple of minutes. The deleted scenes in the “Long Haul Version” include: “Hi, Jack!”, an expanded scene with the kids where they introduce themselves to one another, and a scene with McCrosky and Kramer at a water cooler. Feature length commentary track: ZAZ provide us with a feature length commentary that is the same one that was on the previous release. It is enjoyable, but much of the information is in the video interviews and the trivia track. Theatrical Trailer: Most trailers from films of this era were concerned with the serious voice over, and this one is no exception. The trailer is anamorphically enhanced. Trivia Track: This feature has pop ups about every minute during the feature pointing out background to the film, the actors, the sets and other aspects of production. If you’ve watched the “Long Haul Version” and you’ve listened to the commentary, you know most of it already. You can, however, watch the trivia track while the director’s commentary is on to go through the bonus materials a little quicker. Bonus material rating: 3.5 / 5 Conclusions: This is an improved release of this classic comedy in terms of extras, but we have yet to see a great video and audio presentation. Then again, I wonder if a picture such as Airplane really needs a HD transfer with an active 5.1 soundtrack. If you are a fan of "Airplane", you can’t go wrong with ZAZ’s involvement with the extras, and you are sure to enjoy the commentaries in their various forms. Notes: - I orginally posted this review on Monday night, but due to the issues with the forum, it was lost. There were a couple responses to the review, one of which I added into the review. It was a question regarding the speed up of "Stayin' Alive". I have added in a line to the review to address this since my response was lost. - This review was done on the equipment in my main set up.